The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

In the News

November 29, 2009

When we think of November, a few things come to mind – Thanksgiving, harvest festivals, expressing gratitude, overeating, the joy of leftovers, the pilgrims, pumpkin pie, being with family and friends, the big sleep-inducing dinner, the beautiful and rich colors of fall, and, of course, being grateful. 

 But why, despite the most recent E.coliscare, which included the recall of over 500,000 pounds of ground beef, are farmers (remember they have to be careful about contaminated waste runoff) and ranchers especially grateful this season? Well, on November 3rd, cowbells were ringing and scarecrows were dancing, as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the award of over $17 million in grants targeting American farmers and ranchers. Twenty-nine institutions received varying sums to address the needs of novice farmers and ranchers, as well as enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.
The Lempert Report has long been expressing a similar sentiment, as we believe farmers and ranchers should be paid fairly and equally, receive proper and ongoing training, and depending on the specifics of their livelihood, receive other compensations justifying their efforts. Providing safe and sustainable homegrown food for America’s public is fundamental to a healthy population.         
The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded the grants. The program educates, trains, and provides technical assistance and outreach to U.S. farmers and ranchers who have been practicing for fewer than 10 years. 

The funding is part of USDA's newly launched “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which as the name suggests, emphasizes the need for a fundamental connection between the producer and consumer. The initiative includes supporting local farmers and community food groups, promoting healthy eating, protecting natural resources, and helping schools connect with local foods. Another $19 million in mandatory funding is scheduled for 2010.
"Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges and need educational and training programs to enhance their profitability and long term sustainability,” says Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “The training and education provided through these grants will help ensure the success of the next generation of farmers and ranchers as they work to feed people in their local communities and throughout the world." 
This season, let’s not forget to give thanks to the current efforts employed by ranchers and farmers, and hope that the USDA’s grants provide a more fair playing ground for those beginning in the field. We can also hope that consumers will benefit through a safer food supply.